Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cold Hands

Yesterday I got kind of heavy, and talked about how the death of an upper level eventer reminds me of all of the insecurities and inconsistencies I feel about my riding in the context of my sport. Lately I have been both an insecure and inconsistent rider; I've had some bad experiences with Arya, and I haven't been riding much, so the general result is that I'm kind of an anxious sack of potatoes. Even if I don't know if I am going to be showing next year, I still need to keep myself and my horses in shape, because it does all of us worlds of good to do work. If I am going to have horses, I should do this thing right, right?

To the meat of the post, I would like to admit something silly for all the internet to read: Every time I hear that "Slow Hands" song, all I hear is "Cold Hands" which is honestly, much more applicable to my life right now. Cold hands are decidedly less sexy than "Slow Hands" wants to make hands out to be, but whatever.

I've always had poor circulation. I've always struggled to keep my hands warm, and sustained some frostbite damage doing weekend lessons outside year round in my middle and high school days. I also struggle to balance gloves/mittens that are warm enough with still being able to function. My favorite mittens for driving are utterly useless for anything other than standing around, or doing large motor tasks like driving, opening doors, etc. They're thickly knit, with fleece inside, and leather palms. They're not waterproof, and I have basically no dexterity.

My favorite riding gloves, for the longest time, have been the SSG Pro Show Winter gloves:

For riding, at least, they have a good mix of warmth and dexterity. I can still close my fingers on the reins (very important) and not totally freeze. They aren't warm enough for the depths of winter, but they work out famously around the freezing mark, and worked out well enough even when riding in the unheated indoor at the last boarding barn (though I was tacking in a heated barn). When the going got really cold at our previous boarding situation (unheated and uninsulated barn and indoor, with an outside walk in between) I would either double up on the cheap, knit gloves from places like Target, or use these (once I found them at a local tack shop): 

They are the Ovation Syntac Thinsulate Winter Glove; and they're pretty good. I have had some quality problems with them; the lining has come apart in the fingers and they don't wash up as well as I would have hoped, but they are, at least, quite warm. 

But then again, I wasn't doing chores at these boarding barns; while I can go inside to warm up, I really need a good pair or three of gloves. I have tried, though it was probably several years ago now, the Heritage Extreme and the SSG 10 Below gloves, and found them too bulky to do anything in. I plan to dig them out and give them another go with chores (since I don't have to do up bridle buckles, etc, when I'm doing chores) but I have a feeling I am going to continue to struggle with them. I also feel like I should have gone a size down with each of them, but we shall see if those are just old perceptions. 

Do you, my lovely readers, have favorite winter gloves? I need both work and riding gloves, so I am happy to hear about anything and everything; especially if they are waterproof! I'm planning to talk about some of my favorite cold weather products in another post, too - I do have some favorites, and will happily talk your ear off about dressing to ride outside in winter. I'll probably do a follow up post if/when I survive a winter on the northern tundra. Clearly my blood needs to thicken up, already, but I can't wait for my new Arctic Horse skirt to arrive... the Tongass is great, but I could use some insulation!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A New Face, Some Old Thoughts

This morning my facebook feed was lit up by Denny Emmerson and others commenting about Crackerjack's unfortunate and horribly tragic death in France over the weekend. It's putting a little bit of a damper on my thoughts, and has dredged up the same old hesitance I've been dealing with for years. I don't have a right to talk knowledgeably about the upper levels. I don't really have a right to talk about BN, because I've technically only evented a few USEA seasons at the level. I haven't shown in a long time because showing stopped being fun. It was too stressful; I kept thinking over and over that Bailey is not meant to be an eventer. She is a wonderful horse to jump and enjoy on an XC course, yet in competition she is not. I won't pretend my own anxieties (financial and success driven) don't impact our performance. But I do feel that the courses are much less friendly, and are meant to challenge rather than induce success.

A lack of faith in my sport, a lack of faith in my ability to perform and make it worth it to try to show, is what sits heavy on my heart today. And with it, comes a lack of a plan. And without a plan, I fall off the riding bandwagon quickly. I did get a ride in on Arya on Saturday, despite the snow and ice. She was sassy and up and edgy, about both the footing and the cold and her own creation of this spooky, looky atmosphere in the ring. We kept our ride to walk and trot, and she wasn't bad. We mostly worked on getting back to basics, thanks to many of your well timed blog posts and helpful comments. I stopped asking her to really frame up and engage, and tried to focus on getting her forward (because despite being so powerful and forward feeling, she does actually get stuck behind my leg, and that's when the rearing feels start) and stretching towards my hands. I also worked on getting control of her shoulders. She is enough of a trier that I can probably frame her up and muscle her around, but underneath it, she still struggles to follow her nose, so I'm determined to do this right and go slow. Also, knowing her brain, pushing her is never going to get me anywhere but hurt.

This doesn't help me form a plan, and when it's cold and snowy (see last post, add another two inches) bad things happen. Like I lose motivation to ride Bailey. Whoops. Sorry, girl. She's showing me that she needs more consistent work, because her hind end is once again a weak mess, so I need to find myself a schedule and make myself keep to it.

In much less depressing/self-pitying/etc news, Fox Point Farm has a new resident. Meet Kahlua!

We're working on being halter broken and leading (instead of being dragged) and despite being basically unweaned and unhandled when we picked her up last week - I know, I was such a bad blogger last week, I can't even - she's accepted human company and human weirdness very quickly. The horses were terrified of her, and I felt it was prudent to benadryl my stall walkers to take the edge off for their first few days of sharing the barn with the little "Alien". They're slowly getting used to her, though their minds were totally blown last night when they figured out she can leave her stall. God forbid! She brays like a tiny breathy thing with a cold when I come into the barn, and occasionally skips across her stall (she's in Foxie's 16x10, so she has tons of space) with a little buck when she's spooked. Mostly she hangs out watching me, mugging for treats, and laying judgement on her big horse sisters for being such weirdos. Also, despite finding being led completely abhorrent, she took to tiny Amigo turnout blankets (it's a 36, guys. She's TINY.), jelly scrubbers and having her feet picked up and messed with without question. She also comes when she's called the majority of the time. 

Fingers crossed that, when the time finally comes for her to go out with the horses, everything goes well. She's so small, and I'm so inexperienced with baby equines... I'm kind of afraid the big horses will be stupid and run her over, or something. Or that I won't be able to catch her. Or that she will escape from the fence because she's so tiny maybe that could happen. Who knows!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Greenie vs Greenie

I've been thinking a lot lately about training the green horse, mostly because Bailey just got over feeling "green" in my head and now I've got a new "green" OTTB. If you know me, you know my obsessive brain will sit and grind on something until I find a solution that starts working for me. I can't help it. The subject, at least, is interesting to me because despite the fact that Arya and Bailey are both (pretty much) Thoroughbreds, they are very unalike. I'm sure I know why; Arya was raised as a racehorse, while Bailey wasn't "raised" - she is, after all, the #feralredhorse and was basically a semi wild thing until they hauled her out of the pasture at 4 and threw a whole bunch of new stuff at her at once.

Bailey's first ride at home, #7

Both of the mares have some behavior issues on the ground; they both want to be distracted and lunge like drunkards, and both tend to invade your space and want to walk all over you. I know it takes time, and I know it takes consistency to resolve the issues. Thankfully Bailey was great training for Arya, who is stronger and a bit harder to handle.

Bailey, however, was always quite bold in a chicken-shit kind of way. She took easily enough to new things without too much anxiety or panic. Foxie was anxious, but not nearly so bad as Arya is, so maybe it is a track thing. Or a "I've had less than perfect interactions with people" thing. Foxie was, at first, a terror to jump because she was forward, on her forehand, and had no brakes. Bailey was easy to teach to jump, and progressed quickly because she rarely got frazzled about things. She was better with single fences than things like bounces, but she figured them out fairly quickly and without drama. She wasn't too fussed about hitting poles (which is why I jokingly called her Miley and started to wonder if clear rounds were ever in our future) but not being too fussed is kind of a nice attitude.

Baby's first oxer

Arya, on the other hand, is starting to show me several things:
- She prefers to walk or run. Trotting is not her thing, despite her trot being quite well balanced and nice.
- She is utterly allergic to wood. Like, leaps over ground poles allergic to wood.
- New things (at least right now) cause her to shut down.

The last point is a bit disappointing to me; I know it's mostly a mix of being green and not knowing me well enough yet, but after reviewing trot poles on a circle Monday night, I pointed her at a pair of poles set out as trot poles. And she screeched to a halt and refused to move forward. I got off, and tried to lead her forward. Nope. I removed a pole, and it took a good smack or three with my lead rope to get her to step over it. And then I introduced the second pole again, much farther away. And then moved it in 2 feet. And then another 2 feet. And then she would walk over it, and then walked through them under saddle. But any attempt to trot the poles resulted in her cantering them. Admittedly, she did get praised because she bounced them perfectly on her first try, but still.

I really like to trot new stuff because it's been so effective with Bailey - I have more control over the feet, and because of that, I had more control over making her go. This doesn't seem the case with Arya. So far,, my voice seems to be the deciding factor. I don't ride her with spurs, and like most OTTBs she does have a bit of a beef with a whip.

Am I supposed to just... canter everything? I feel like it doesn't get much simpler than poles. Crossrails seem to frazzle her, just like the trot poles did. I'm nervous to put her over even a x-rail with the sides at 2' because I have this feeling two things will happen: she could jump me out of the tack into the next millennium, or stop, hard, and if I stay on and get to the other end of the fence... she's going to take off with me.

I'm not completely unused to this but still.

My plan, tonight, is to keep trying; we will try the trot poles again and try for an actual trot. We will work on keeping our brain in our head. I'm heavily considering throwing a pelham on her, even though I know it is a risk. The french link pelham I have went over fantastically with Foxie, and went swimmingly along with Bailey - until she felt the leverage, and then it caused lots of panicked rearing because she was "trapped". It could cause rearing, and there's always the greater risk that I'll slam her in the mouth because I'm out of shape and don't give Bailey extravagant releases. There's also the chance that she will take off with me and I will die. I don't love the mullen mouth pelham Fox wore for years, but perhaps that is a slightly safer option?

So. I'll be waffling over that for the next 6 hours or so.

Yay, baby horse problems!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A little help for a friend

Alright, readers. I promise I'll stop posting about my first world #babyhorseproblems and try to come up with something fleshier to write about besides doing groundwork and waxing whiny about my out of shape horse. Today, though, I could use a little help. You see, my beloved friend S (Hi, S!) has had some tough luck, like a lot of us have had lately in the horse world. And after all of the royally shitty things that have happened this summer and fall, she's got a lovely new horse to get to know and enjoy and jump over big jumps.

Internet, meet Noodles:

Noodles' name is pretty funny. It's actually his JC Registered name, too: 

The problem is, that Noodles needs a show name. Preferably one that doesn't involve "Noodles"... at least outright. So, internet... what would you call Mr. Noodles? He's tall, dark and handsome, and clearly can jump like a boss.

My vote is "Saint Soba" because soba noodles are noms. It just popped into my head though... so please, internet, let's give S some ideas!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Baby Horse Problems

I was a bad mom and have hardly worked with my horses in the last week, and probably just scheduled myself out of doing horse related work tonight... again.


Bad Ashley.

I did drag Arya out on Friday (BB played too, though her ride is so laughably pathetic I won't even blog about it. She's as out of shape as I am, and that's saying something). Arya and I played on the ground, because I thought I would have time to ride this weekend when it turned out that I kinda didn't, because I was doing photo work and moving approximately 270 60-lb bales of hay. But anyways. Arya did some ground work, because she was looking a bit feral with all of her... acrobatics in the pasture, and of course, she also cut her leg and was stocked up so I wasn't sure if she would be sound.

She was sound, and started doing the basic groundwork stuff pretty obediently - stop, turn, go forward at different gaits, etc. I started again with her by walking over poles with me leading her, and for a while, we were doing great, even when I sent her. I upped the ante and put her over a pile of poles, and she did great - going one direction.

Her new form of protest, apparently, is to put on the breaks, and then turn and run the other way to do what I'm asking her on the "easy" side. Brat. She tried that a few times, which was extra scary because, ya know, I am lunging her through standards and if I don't steer her right, she runs into them, or around them, and both of those are undesirable and probably would traumatize her further. She got flustered and I tried to step her back to being like, ok, first we do a few ground work circles, and now I walk you over the pole, and now I send you over the pole, but she always wants to leap over the poles (they are seriously two landscape timbers next to each other, not stacked, not a mini x, nothing - and she only leaps when she's "alone") and then make her life harder by insisting on doing the exercise with speed. Then she'd scare herself, and would try to shut down going forward by kind of running backwards to keep me from getting behind her with my body to drive her forward.

I feel like each time we work on the ground, it's 2 steps forward, 3 steps back; she can do an exercise with increasing confidence, and then botch it once and the whole thing goes to pieces. On Friday, she worked herself up into a nice sweat that lathered when I tried to groom her afterwards, because clearly being dramatic and stressed is SO MUCH WORK.

So much neck sweat.

I think, going forward, I might actually try to do more pole work under saddle and work on bending and maybe even the start of lateral work in hand. While I still am a bit leery of her backing off under saddle and needing to thump her forward, I'm getting braver about it, and she doesn't offer to rear (yet) so we haven't had any further trauma.

TL:DR; training baby horses is hard. Arya is so much greener than I expected, weirdly enough, and I am trying so hard to develop her out of this freak-out-and-have-a-meltdown stage and to teach her to be confident and to trust me. I feel like there is a nice horse in there, but I'm not sure how to get her out of her own head. Clearly I need to a) work her more and b) figure out a game plan to get her progressing with, if anything, better recovery from the moments of "trauma".

She's a special one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boots (though, how about without the fur)

When I was packing for the schooling show, it occurred to me once again that I don't own a pair of open fronts anymore; my last pair met their plastic-y end in the top loading washing machine accident of last year.

Every time I go looking at open fronts, though, I'm never convinced that I need to replace them. I want to put boots on my horses, and Bailey definitely benefits from the open fronts, as she tends to be less carefully when wearing full boots, but there's just something about them.

Perhaps it's the fact that the 20$ pairs and the 150$ pairs look about the same.

Or perhaps it's because I can never decide if I want brown, or black...

Or because I am crazy.

I can never seem to pull the trigger on open fronts. With the holidays slowly approaching (#winteriscoming) I am considering putting a set on my Christmas list... but with tack stores locally only carrying the standard brands (Roma, Eskadron) I am left wondering what the blogger world prefers and why.

Leather, or plastic?

Lining preferences?

Type of hind boot?

Are the more expensive plastic ones really...worth it?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Schooling Show Recap!

Despite hell and high water - er... lots of rain - J and I made it to the schooling show yesterday!

I threw down a quick school on Thursday, and Bailey was finally feeling semi-decent over some of the larger fences, so I told myself "It's a schooling show, chill out" and began, instead, to enthusiastically plan my outfit. It downpoured Friday night into Saturday morning, and the paddock has been reduced to a muddy and slow drying mess. The arena was full of ponds even on Saturday afternoon, so I didn't get my quick 20 minute jump school in, but my tack was clean, and I was feeling vaguely ok abut the whole thing.

J showed up to Ginny having a swollen spot above her knee, but we tossed her in the trailer anyways as she looked sound enough to at least do a W/T dressage test. Bailey must have seen me hitch the trailer or something, because she knew we were up to something, though she loaded peaceably despite scary people working on the shed right next to where we loaded up. We got to the show, got numbers and got J on to see how Ginny felt before their 18" jumping class. She seemed sound and enthusiastic, so into the ring they went. Ginny was much impressed with the fences and jumped J out of the tack over the first... 6 or so. She finally seemed to be jumping a more appropriate height (though still with enthusiasm) by the end of the course, but we clearly have more of a jumper than we expected on our hands! I'm super proud of J and her sticky britches for keeping it together, not going off course and for sticking each of those extravagant jumps.

Bailey and I had our show jumping class next, and Bailey was, at this point, morphing from "freakishly well behaved" show horse to "screaming banshee" because god forbid you separate her from her beloved Ginny! She was pretty good to warm up, though she did throw me a few bucks when I got after her with my crop for screaming at her BFF. There wasn't a jumping warm up, so as they were resetting the course, they allowed me to hop over a fence or two. Bailey was a bit of an anxious rocket, and I was eyeballing a few looky fences on the course with some concern myself. However, despite losing her hind quarters once around a much-tighter-than-I-expected turn, she jumped around clear and speedily. She didn't offer a stop, and went forward to some of the scarier stuff with impulsion when I urged her on. I was thrilled with her, to be sure.

It was a much warmer day than I was expecting, so Bailey was sweaty and gross when we were done jumping - she apparently didn't tap any poles, and the other competitor had a touch, so we won! It feels a bit strange, as the other gal's ride was much smoother and had better turns and a more thoughtful ride than I did. Something to work on, definitely! J was off doing her dressage ride (she ended up scoring the middle of a sizable 12 rider pack) and soon after, we had XC. The format was, though I shouldn't have been surprised, a lesson, so we did things like review two point and practice pulley rein stops. The jumps were simple, but I did benefit from the eyes on the ground - while I don't need anyone to remind me that both Bailey and I were out of shape (and thus, not at our best) - being urged to ride a quieter, more trusting ride to the XC fences was very nice. Bailey was happy to lope all of the fences and jumped nicely when I started to get out of her way and stop chasing. She also did her first sunken road type bank (down, one stride, up) and though the first ride was rocky, she trotted gamely through and though she was tired, kept tying until the last.

Overall, it was not a bad way to end the season; my funds are low for any other adventures, so I am calling it quits. We clearly have some takeaways, and I'm hoping to spend the winter putting a baseline of fitness on both of us, and trying to improve and cement our basics so we can come out with a bang next year.

And now, as a reward for scrolling/reading to the end of this wall of text, here are some obligatory satin shots:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Schooling Show Prep, etc.

I've been a bit of a busy busy bee the last few days; J and I dropped our entries into the mail on Saturday for a show that (technically) closed on Sunday, but it sounds like we're in! I haven't been doing as much as I want with the horses, and the days seem to get shorter and shorter.

Arya has been doing some ground work - I gave her a "day off to play" on the line last week Thursday after two sessions in a row of small jumps and poles, only to totally regret the decision. I got after her with the whip when she would jump the small and larger cross rail one direction and not the other, and managed to push her into a full on bolting sideways tantrum. Whoops. And then I managed to loose her, because I tripped and she was rope burning my hand. I got to watch, vaguely horrified and also kind of amused, as my well bred grand and great grand daughter of big name racehorses flagged her tail and went galloping off across the newly seeded hay field, leaving lovely hoof holes in the dirt. The seedlings are about 2 inches tall, and sparse at this point, in case you were wondering. She galloped in a nice long loop and ended up staring at her sister and Ginny across the fenceline, puffing and confused.

Srsly, mare?

She let me catch her (big win! BB definitely would have tried to keep running from me) and I lead her back into the ring, and we started with a ground pole. And she completely shut down again and refused to move going one way, while happily walking in the other.

So we spent 20 more minutes working on walking over a single pole, in hand, and not stopping and trying to fly backwards.

The next day, I brought her out again, and things got easier. I need to review tonight, and I plan to get on her again, if lightly. We've had torrential rain for the last few days, and coupled with her lack of being "quarter sheet broke" and the lack of daylight I've been enjoying, she hasn't been getting worked. She also came in for dinner with a fat hind leg (the black one, aka the same one she hurt last time she ran around like an idiot) the day after the three did some of this:

I wrapped with BOT Quick Wraps, threw her a gram of bute and figured I'd have clean leg in the morning. Instead I had TWO fat, swollen legs. I turned her out and tried to not have a meltdown after I got to work and started googling, only to start reading about Cellulitis and other fun swelling stuff. Luckily, the swelling is back to just one leg, and she wasn't running a temp, so I am hoping it's just the princess refusing to move because it's muddy as all get out in my paddock. She seemed off the first night I noticed the swelling, but she looked sound enough getting chased by Ginny in the pasture, so I am at least going to sit on her. (Addendum: We rode, she was mostly unswollen when I tacked her up and was sound. She did some W/T/C in Bailey's wonder bit (which isn't wonderful for either of them, boo) and walked over some poles both way, though required Ginny to be her lead going her "bad" way. Mares!)

Bailey has been jumping; though it's been a while, so I'm trying to not think too hard about the rough moments we've had. I am getting my eye back (slowly) and she's getting her half halts back, and if anything, at least she's still forward and brave. I even ended up popping a few fences in my dressage saddle (while wearing my Arctic Horse Tongass skirt again) and didn't die. Tuesday evening we schooled over fences in the partially flooded outdoor; Bailey was sticky and not very forward, so I am hoping for something a bit more positive feeling tonight.

The show is Sunday, so I am hoping I can find the time to hop on B quickly on Saturday for a 20 minute quick school, then we'll pack the trailer and be ready for the morning. Bailey is showing in a 2'6 jumpers course and doing the XC class (though I have no idea what that entails) so we'll be packing jump attire and an XC vest. Fun! Since the show is super informal, I can rock all of the XC colors I want, and I'm looking forward to it. J and Ginny are doing a mini CT - dressage and an 18" hunters course. I think they're going to do awesome:

You can't deny that Ginny and J are the cutest barrel racers turned jumpers ever :) 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thank You

I have a huge, public thank you to send out to some wonderful bloggers, who brightened a tough week. Their kindness has completely knocked me speechless, and I don't know what else to say but 


From the bottom of my heart. I mean it. I received a  package from Kaity, Nicole, Carly and Leah on Friday, and promptly broke down on my front porch in the sun when I opened it (and then promptly snapchatted about it because I'm that millennial). 

I laughed and cried when I opened the little box with the bracelet, which I haven't taken off since Friday except to shower; my parents had bought me a simpler version back when I was in high school and had just gotten her, but had overlooked the fact that Foxie's barn name was, well, Foxie. Wearing a bracelet emblazoned with "Foxie" in curly script was not something I was quite sure I wanted to do, and true to the initial impression, I never wore the thing. I'm so excited to be able to take Foxie with me wherever I go. It brings me joy to think that I can carry her with me this way, and maybe I can feel a little less guilty that I'm riding and enjoying myself and having fun when she's not here. There's still a hole in my life, but I don't want to halt my riding career because I miss her. She is the reason I can ride and train the mares who remain, and she is the reason I want to show and go after those dreams that don't have to stay dreams.

These wonderful, thoughtful bloggers also included a) A sweet note on TARDIS stationary which suits the Doctor Who Twins perfectly (have I mentioned I'm 97% sure I'm showing Arya  as "Geronimo"?) and b) a bag of horse cookies, which both mares have been enjoying with relish. There has been much happy nodding and begging for more. 

Leah, Carly, Nicole and Kaity... thank you. So much. I wish I could repay you in photos or in some way share the brightness you have brought in a dark time. 

I also haven't properly thanked all of you, who posted on this blog following Foxie's passing. I was so numb and evasive that I didn't thank you at the time, and have felt too awkward to go back and comment now. But... thank you. Feeling understood by horse people was so comforting, especially as people questioned the decision or made me doubt that I didn't do my best by her. Thank you for saying all the right things, and making me feel like I wasn't alone. 

Miss you, big girl.
In other news: 

J and I have been prepping for a show next weekend, so I am excited to begin the chronicles of "wearing the bracelet everywhere, with photo proof" by taking it to a horse show. I haven't done schooling shows since the Foxie days, so it feels right.